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Maryland postal workers demand plant reopen

Published Mar 15, 2012 9:50 PM

Mobilization brought workers from dierent states to Frederick, Md.
WW photo: Joseph Piette

Wearing blue and yellow “Reopen Frederick” shirts and waving blue “Save America’s Post Office” signs, about 80 workers gathered on March 11 to demand the reopening of the Frederick, Md., Processing and Distribution Center.

Located about 50 miles west of Baltimore, Frederick serves as an example of what could happen to towns across the country if the U.S. Postal Service is allowed to execute plans to close 223 more processing facilities, organizers say.

Since the Frederick center closed last Nov. 19, mail in the 217xx ZIP code area has been shipped by truck to Baltimore, where it is sorted and then shipped the 50 miles back. Postal workers say the Baltimore facility can’t handle that volume of mail, and yet more mail is slated to be sent to Baltimore when the Martinsburg, W.Va., processing plant closes later this year.

When the Frederick News-Post asked readers to report complaints since the plant closing, more than 50 people responded. “One told the News-Post that medication refills he ordered in November from an online pharmacy in Florida were delivered to his home a month later. A jewelry designer said pieces she sent to mail-order customers in early December had not reached their destinations two weeks later, forcing her to remake the pieces and resend them via UPS. Other complaints described bills, insurance documents and invitations that arrived late or never at all, and sale flyers arriving after the sale was over.” (fredericknewspost.com)

The plant closing forced 180 employees to take postal jobs in various other locations, including Baltimore and Linthicum, Md., both sites 50 miles away.

Occupy Baltimore and Occupy Frederick activists joined former processing plant workers and others to converge March 11 on the closed Frederick plant. Postal workers from as far away as the Mid-Hudson processing facility — also on the closing list — in the town of Newburgh, N.Y., also came. They called for the USPS to reopen the plant and for a halt to further closures countrywide.

Speakers included Richard Shelley, who works at the Baltimore Processing and Distribution Facility and is director of organization for American Postal Workers Union Local 181; Sharon Black for Baltimore Occupy 4 Jobs; and Ken Lerch, branch president of National Association of Letter Carriers Local 3825, Rockville, Md.

Two town hall meetings are planned: March 13 in New Market, Va., and March 15 in Williamsport, Md.

In February, Shelley and five other workers filed a formal complaint to the USPS Inspector General, listing documented cases of severely delayed mail and serious safety violations.

The legal filing ended with “We, the below signed, request an immediate, thorough and objective investigation of the above allegations and the totality of effects of the closing of the Frederick P&DC, including possible crimes committed by Postal management officials up to and including the Postmaster General of the United States.”